"The issue of human life and its preservation and development is one that begins with conception and ends only when God calls a person back to himself in death. If we are consistent, then, we must be concerned about life from beginning to end. It is like a seamless garment; either it all holds together or eventually it all falls apart." Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 1975

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Perinatal Hospice - what it is about

From the Perinatal Hospice and Palliative Care Facebook page.

"This tender perinatal hospice video was created by Tammy Ruiz Ziegler RN CPLC, perinatal bereavement coordinator at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It has also been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, Czech, Japanese, Polish, and Ukrainian. Links to all translations here: www.perinatalhospice.org/resources-for-caregivers.html"


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tY7mq1g9pGk

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Life Matters: Forgiveness And Healing After Abortion

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2013/life-matters-forgiveness-and-healing-after-abortion.cfm


Life Matters: Forgiveness And Healing After Abortion

 
My life is ruined. I have been depressed, suicidal, guilt-ridden for 24 years. … I beg every day for forgiveness. … I cannot believe God would forgive the life I have led.
***
Over the years I continually went to confession. A priest once told me, “God has forgiven you. You need to forgive yourself. You are putting yourself through your own purgatory.” But I could not bring myself to accept forgiveness.
***
I know God has forgiven me for this sin I have committed but it is so hard for me to forgive myself. Thirteen years later and I still haven’t forgiven myself. I live with this shame, guilt and disgust every day of my life.
***
Thanks to Project Rachel I am me again. The retreat allowed me the opportunity to experience God’s love and forgiveness—something I had decided I was not worthy of. Little did I know that God was there, all along, offering me his love… I actually feel lighter. The power of forgiveness is life-altering. I am happy again and the people whom I love sense that.
These are but a few of the many thousands of messages sent to the website of Project Rachel Ministry (www.HopeAfterAbortion.org), the postabortion ministry of the Catholic Church. They speak for many who struggle with forgiveness after abortion.
A priest active in Project Rachel Ministry once spoke of the spiritual desolation experienced by post-abortive women: “Many feel they have committed ‘the unforgivable sin’ and are destined for hell, or that they deserve to be on death row. Most suffer this spiritual desolation in silence, too ashamed and feeling unworthy to seek reconciliation from God.” 
That a deeply remorseful woman does not trust in God’s desire—his eagerness—to forgive her, or that after receiving absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation she cannot accept that she has been forgiven or remains unable to forgive herself—these obstacles to healing and peace tell us nothing about who God is or how efficacious the Sacrament is. What they tell us is that such women are devastated by the loss of their children, aware of the seriousness of their sin, and that they have never encountered such merciful love in their relationships with others—love that might have allowed them to hope in God’s infinitely greater merciful love.
Is the despair of forgiveness merely a product of “Catholic guilt” as some abortion supporters have suggested? Even nonbelievers recognize their need for God’s forgiveness and for the ability to forgive themselves. Another letter to HopeAfterAbortion reads in part: 
I’m not religious but I’m scared that I’m going to be punished for what I’ve done, in the afterlife. Where do those who were raised atheist turn to? … I don’t want to hear people say that I have to forgive myself because after all these years I still can’t. I’m scared that I’ll never be able to because I know what I did was wrong.
She can write “I know what I did was wrong” because God has written his law on every human heart (cf. Heb 8:10). But when becoming pregnant sets off a “crisis,” conscience can easily be drowned out by fears: fear of condemnation, of disappointing parents, of losing a boyfriend, of not being able to complete one’s education, fear of raising a child alone or fear of what it may be like to raise a child with severe disabilities.
It may seem impossible for a post-abortive woman to find healing and peace, much less hope and joy, as long as she is convinced that God will not forgive her sin of abortion. If—as she believes—she will spend eternity in hell, forever separated from her child, how could she begin to forgive herself for casting aside her child, and forfeiting her present and future happiness?
God has provided the solution to this misery and asks us to be catalysts to the solution. It is to believe in one’s heart what Jesus has repeatedly said and shown—“I am love and mercy itself… Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet.”1 “I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful heart.”2 “The greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy.”3
Throughout salvation history, God has welcomed repentant sinners with special joy. Jesus concludes the parable of the lost sheep with these words: “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15:7).
Jesus goes out of his way to speak privately with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. She is an outcast, scorned for having had five husbands and now living with one who is not her husband. In a conversation marked by gentleness, truth and love, Jesus reveals her inherent dignity to her and confides that his mission is to save all men and women. She becomes at once an apostle to her village. (Jn 4:4-26)
When Simon and other Pharisees were scandalized that Jesus allowed a “sinful woman” to bathe his feet with her tears while dining at Simon’s house, Jesus holds her up as an example of humility, gratitude and love: “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, hence she has shown great love” (Lk 7:36-50). Not even once does Jesus reject a humble contrite sinner.
Blessed John Paul II envisioned that post-aborted women who have approached Jesus with humility and sorrow and who then experienced his merciful love will also become Jesus’ most eloquent evangelizers: 
With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.4
How can we be catalysts to the healing of women who’ve had abortions, to help all others believe in God’s merciful love so that they may find healing from any grave sin? Let us heed the advice of Pope Francis:
Take up God’s offer …. For God, we are not numbers, we are … the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart. … let us be enveloped in the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to … [allow] ourselves [to] be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.5


Susan E. Wills, Esq. is Assistant Director for Education & Outreach, USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. If you know of someone in need of confidential help to experience God’s forgiveness and healing, contact www.HopeAfterAbortion.org or 888-456-HOPE (4673).
1 Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul(Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 1987), no. 699.
2 Diary, no. 1588.
3 Diary, no. 1182.
4 Bl. John Paul II, Encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospelof Life) (1995), no. 99.
5 Pope Francis, homily, April 7, 2013

Bridges Of Mercy For Post-Abortion Healing

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2016/bridges-of-mercy-for-post-abortion-healing.cfm

Bridges Of Mercy For Post-Abortion Healing

 

(en español)

Maria* was going back to Church after her second-grader enrolled in First Communion classes. She didn't know what to say to her daughter after being asked why she didn't go to Communion. 


Maria had an abortion in her teens and felt that she couldn't go to confession because she had committed an "unforgivable sin."
Li* and his wife, Vanessa*, were attending counseling to address problems in their marriage. Li decided to finally tell Vanessa that, while in college, he had taken his former girlfriend to get an abortion. Vanessa was devastated.
Jennifer* comes from a large, pro-life family that is active in their parish. At the funeral of her devout, beloved mother, Jennifer was despondent beyond the grief of her loss. Jennifer couldn't stop thinking that her mother in heaven would now discover the secret she had kept for thirty years: the existence of a granddaughter, whom Jennifer had aborted in college because she was too ashamed to tell her parents about her pregnancy.
"As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other." 

Pope Francis
When Darryl* started attending a parish men's prayer group, he began to feel more connected than ever to his faith. But with his increasing engagement, he began to wonder whether God would really forgive him for encouraging and paying for the abortion of his only child. 
Maria, Vanessa, Li, Jennifer, and Darryl are among the tens of millions of Americans whose lives have been directly touched by abortion. Like so many others, they have experienced shame, regret, guilt, and unhealthy secrets. But as they have also experienced, God's healing love and mercy are always possible. 
While many Catholics want to help women and men heal from past abortions, most don't know how to begin. Here are a few ways that Catholics of different backgrounds can assist friends, family members, fellow parishioners, clients—or perhaps even themselves:
  • If you are like Jennifer, who had an abortion, read the words of St. John Paul II to women who have had abortions.** Be assured that it is never too late to seek God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that "you can with sure hope entrust your child" to the Father and his mercy (EV 99). 
  • If you know someone like Maria who has had an abortion, express your sympathy for her loss. Assure her of God's unconditional love, and encourage her to seek healing and forgiveness. Explain that the Church's Project Rachel Ministry for post-abortion healing can help. (www.HopeAfterAbortion.org
  • If you are a priest who fears alienating parishioners, be confident that you can preach on pro-life issues with sensitivity as long as your message reminds the congregation that no matter how serious the sin, God longs to forgive every repentant heart. Many who have participated in abortion like Maria, Li, Jennifer, or Darryl believe they have committed the "unforgivable sin." Your preaching can be a unique channel of God's mercy for them, inviting them to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 
  • If you are a parish faith formation leader, become aware of the potential pastoral encounters with those hurting from past abortions like Maria or Darryl. Work with your pastor to include catechesis on forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • If you are a member of your parish pro-life committee, remember those who may be suffering like Jennifer or Li. Regularly highlight information about Project Rachel Ministry and post-abortion healing using bulletins, bulletin boards, literature racks, parish webpages and e-newsletters, and any other appropriate means of communication.
  • If you are actively involved in public pro-life advocacy which people like Jennifer may encounter, remember to communicate with messages that are respectful, non-judgmental, and compassionate.

  • If you are a mental health professional who works with couples like Vanessa and Li, strive to learn more about post-abortion issues and how those you are serving may be affected. 
  • If you are trying to be a devout parent like Jennifer's mother was, remind your children frequently that you love them unconditionally. Promise they can always come to you when they are troubled or have done something wrong.
  • If you belong to a religious community, you can help people like Maria, Vanessa, Li, Jennifer, Darryl, and others by regularly praying for all who are in need of post-abortion healing.
  • If you don't specifically know anyone in circumstances similar to those of the people mentioned, you still have an important mission. Keep all who suffer from post-abortion pain in your prayers, and commit yourself to being an instrument of mercy. Show by your example what it means to ask for and extend forgiveness.
All of us are sinners. Yet Pope Francis calls mercy a "bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness" (MV 2). The Holy Father also reminds us, "As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other" (MV 9). Life is a gift from God and so is his mercy. May we cherish and promote both!
*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.
**See Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae (Gospel of Life) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995), no. 99.

Excerpts from Evangelium vitae, © 1995 and Misericordiae vultus, © 2015 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
 

(en español)

Maria* was going back to Church after her second-grader enrolled in First Communion classes. She didn't know what to say to her daughter after being asked why she didn't go to Communion. 


Maria had an abortion in her teens and felt that she couldn't go to confession because she had committed an "unforgivable sin."
Li* and his wife, Vanessa*, were attending counseling to address problems in their marriage. Li decided to finally tell Vanessa that, while in college, he had taken his former girlfriend to get an abortion. Vanessa was devastated.
Jennifer* comes from a large, pro-life family that is active in their parish. At the funeral of her devout, beloved mother, Jennifer was despondent beyond the grief of her loss. Jennifer couldn't stop thinking that her mother in heaven would now discover the secret she had kept for thirty years: the existence of a granddaughter, whom Jennifer had aborted in college because she was too ashamed to tell her parents about her pregnancy.
"As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other." 

Pope Francis
When Darryl* started attending a parish men's prayer group, he began to feel more connected than ever to his faith. But with his increasing engagement, he began to wonder whether God would really forgive him for encouraging and paying for the abortion of his only child. 
Maria, Vanessa, Li, Jennifer, and Darryl are among the tens of millions of Americans whose lives have been directly touched by abortion. Like so many others, they have experienced shame, regret, guilt, and unhealthy secrets. But as they have also experienced, God's healing love and mercy are always possible. 
While many Catholics want to help women and men heal from past abortions, most don't know how to begin. Here are a few ways that Catholics of different backgrounds can assist friends, family members, fellow parishioners, clients—or perhaps even themselves:
  • If you are like Jennifer, who had an abortion, read the words of St. John Paul II to women who have had abortions.** Be assured that it is never too late to seek God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that "you can with sure hope entrust your child" to the Father and his mercy (EV 99). 
  • If you know someone like Maria who has had an abortion, express your sympathy for her loss. Assure her of God's unconditional love, and encourage her to seek healing and forgiveness. Explain that the Church's Project Rachel Ministry for post-abortion healing can help. (www.HopeAfterAbortion.org
  • If you are a priest who fears alienating parishioners, be confident that you can preach on pro-life issues with sensitivity as long as your message reminds the congregation that no matter how serious the sin, God longs to forgive every repentant heart. Many who have participated in abortion like Maria, Li, Jennifer, or Darryl believe they have committed the "unforgivable sin." Your preaching can be a unique channel of God's mercy for them, inviting them to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 
  • If you are a parish faith formation leader, become aware of the potential pastoral encounters with those hurting from past abortions like Maria or Darryl. Work with your pastor to include catechesis on forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • If you are a member of your parish pro-life committee, remember those who may be suffering like Jennifer or Li. Regularly highlight information about Project Rachel Ministry and post-abortion healing using bulletins, bulletin boards, literature racks, parish webpages and e-newsletters, and any other appropriate means of communication.
  • If you are actively involved in public pro-life advocacy which people like Jennifer may encounter, remember to communicate with messages that are respectful, non-judgmental, and compassionate.

  • If you are a mental health professional who works with couples like Vanessa and Li, strive to learn more about post-abortion issues and how those you are serving may be affected. 
  • If you are trying to be a devout parent like Jennifer's mother was, remind your children frequently that you love them unconditionally. Promise they can always come to you when they are troubled or have done something wrong.
  • If you belong to a religious community, you can help people like Maria, Vanessa, Li, Jennifer, Darryl, and others by regularly praying for all who are in need of post-abortion healing.
  • If you don't specifically know anyone in circumstances similar to those of the people mentioned, you still have an important mission. Keep all who suffer from post-abortion pain in your prayers, and commit yourself to being an instrument of mercy. Show by your example what it means to ask for and extend forgiveness.
All of us are sinners. Yet Pope Francis calls mercy a "bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness" (MV 2). The Holy Father also reminds us, "As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other" (MV 9). Life is a gift from God and so is his mercy. May we cherish and promote both!
*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.
**See Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae (Gospel of Life) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995), no. 99.

Excerpts from Evangelium vitae, © 1995 and Misericordiae vultus, © 2015 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

10 Ways To Support Her When She's Unexpectedly Expecting

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2015/10-ways-to-support-her-when-shes-unexpectedly-expecting.cfm


10 Ways To Support Her When She's Unexpectedly Expecting

 

Your support might be the only support she receives. …You can make a difference in her life. Will you?

(en español)

I had been brought up to believe that life is always a gift, but it certainly didn't feel like one when I gazed in shock at a positive pregnancy test. As a mom who had my first baby in college, I know that an unexpected pregnancy can sometimes bring fear, shame, and doubt.
However, I also know that an unexpected pregnancy can bring joy, excitement, awe, gratitude, and deeper love than I knew was possible—not to mention the little bundle who inspires these sentiments! About nine months after looking at that pregnancy test, I received the very best gift I have ever been given: my daughter, Maria*.
An unexpected pregnancy might be confusing along the way, but life—though at times difficult—is ultimately beautiful. Perhaps one of your friends has become pregnant unexpectedly. As someone who has been there, I encourage you to support your friend in her new journey of being a mother.
Not sure how to help or what to say? Here are ten tips:
1. Be available.

An unexpected pregnancy can send a woman into crisis mode. If your friend just found out she is pregnant, she may not be thinking clearly, and she may feel she has no control over anything at the moment.
Be aware of how she is responding to you. Listen to her and let her know you love her and are there for her any time she needs you. Don't pass judgment on her either interiorly or through words or body language.
2. Respond positively.
When a woman experiencing challenging circumstances confides she is pregnant, the reaction of the first person she tells tends to set the tone for her decision-making. Avoid responding with shock or alarm, and be calm and understanding. Let her know you're there for her and that it's going to be okay. Pay close attention to her emotional state, and act accordingly.
Depending on where she is emotionally, it may or may not be helpful to congratulate her at that time. However, it is always important to affirm that every person's life—including her child's and her own—is precious and beautiful no matter the circumstances.
3. Be honest.
The journey through an unexpected pregnancy is not easy, and it's okay if you don't know the perfect words to say. Just be honest. Let her know you are there for her, and ask her how she is feeling and how you can support her.
It's a good way to open the door to communicate, and she may be grateful for the opportunity to talk freely with someone. She might become emotional at times, but be patient—let's not forget hormones; the struggle is real.
4. Offer specific help.
Don't be afraid to ask her if she needs help with anything or to make specific offers to help. For example, you might offer to help with cleaning, finding a good doctor, or running to the store to pick up the one food that won't make her feel sick. But remember to read her cues, and make sure you're not being overbearing.
5. Set up a support system.
In addition to the standard baby registry, you can help her get other kinds of support by lining up much-needed, practical help. Think outside the box. Food = love, so take advantage of websites that allow friends and family to sign up to make meals, send food deliveries, or simply donate money. Some websites can even help organize other assistance like rides to the doctor, babysitting other children she may have, or help around the house. You can also look into what programs and assistance may be sponsored by your local diocesan pastoral care or Respect Life offices.
6. Tell her she is beautiful.
She may be feeling physically, spiritually, and emotionally drained with this pregnancy. Take the time to reassure her of her beauty, both inside and out, especially when morning sickness might make her feel otherwise.
7. Help her recharge and relax.
First-time mothers may have difficulty crossing that threshold into their new life as a mother. Your friend may be fearful that her life is "over," so help her see it's okay—good, actually—to still focus on herself sometimes. Even though she is a mother, she will still continue to be a woman, so affirm that it's healthy and important to take care of herself—not only physically, but emotionally, as well. Help her to do things she really enjoys. Take her out for a nice meal, a movie, or a day of pampering.
8. Reassure her it's okay (and good) to be happy.
It can be hard to be happy about a pregnancy that many people see as unfortunate timing at best and totally irresponsible at worst. Even if your friend wants to be happy about her bundle of joy, she may not feel she "deserves" to show that happiness. Get excited about her pregnancy in front of her, and she may just feel comfortable enough to share her own excitement with you.
Also, continue to show your interest and excitement throughout her pregnancy. Ask questions about her developing child. What is she learning at her doctor appointments? What names is she considering? Ask her what she thinks her baby looks like. Does she think they will have her eyes?
9. Encourage her.
Society tends to focus on ways that an unexpected pregnancy can be challenging. Help your friend to think of the benefits. Remind her of the fluttering kicks, somersaults, and maybe even dance moves her son or daughter will be rocking once they grow a little more. With moms' groups and opportunities for play dates, there's a whole new social world to explore. And there are plenty of benefits to being a young mom—like having more energy to chase her kids around.
10. Point out some real-life role models.
Many amazing young mothers and birthmothers have experienced unexpected pregnancies and still followed their dreams. Other women have discovered that, even when unable to follow their lives as planned, something beautiful and good came out of the twists in the road, bringing opportunities, growth, and joy they hadn't imagined.
Point your friend to some of the many websites, blogs, and social media accounts dedicated to supporting young mothersAnd let's not forget Mary, whose "yes" to bearing Jesus affected the course of history. The Blessed Mother is a great person to pour her heart out to, and she's a powerhouse of intercessory prayer.
An unexpected pregnancy can be a difficult and frightening time, and it's important that your friend knows you are thinking of her and supporting her. Although the tips mentioned can be helpful, don't forget the most important thing is to pray. Even if it's just a quick two-second prayer, prayer is the most effective way we can help. Pray for her, for her child, and for guidance in how you can give her the best possible support.
Also, pay attention to how your friend feels most loved. One person might appreciate encouraging words, while another might feel more supported if you wash the dishes. Simple thingsletting her know that you care and are always ready to listen, that you are available to help her, that you are praying for hercan give hope and courage when she might otherwise feel alone. Your support might be the only support she receives. Even if we never know how, the smallest things we do can change someone's life. You can make a difference in her life. Will you?

The author is now a married mother of four who works as an advocate for young mothers facing unexpected pregnancies. She had her first baby in college and is a proud Catholic who supports life in every circumstance and at every stage.
Heartbeat International provides a directory of pregnancy services, which is accessible at www.heartbeatinternational.org/worldwide-directory. . . . You can learn about setting up parish-based support for women who are pregnant and need assistance by visiting the websites for The Gabriel Project (www.gabrielproject.us. . . ) and Elizabeth Ministry (www.elizabethministry.com. . . ), which have chapters across the country. For more information about how you can help, or for information about help that may be available, such as pregnancy care centers, maternity homes, and other assistance, contact your local diocesan Respect Life office. A list of diocesan Respect Life Ministry offices can be found atwww.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/diocesan-pro-life-offices.cfm.
*Name changed for privacy.